7 Washington Redskins Players Who Will Surprise in Training Camp
Training camp is a time of opportunity for many players looking to make an active roster in the NFL, and for others looking to improve their standing with their current team. The Washington Redskins have a lot of young talent, as well as a collection of established veterans, each with their own stake in training camp.
Beyond being the first time players are brought together to work in the framework of the team, it presents the first opportunity for players to shine.
It is difficult to weed out the 40-odd players who will make appearances in training camp but never sniff a down of football from those who will beat someone out for a roster spot.
Even so, here are some of the players who are poised to turn in head-turning performances in training camp.
Roy Helu, Running Back
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Alfred Morris is the unquestioned starter heading into training camp, and for good reason. However, had it not been for the knee and toe injuries that landed Roy Helu on IR in 2012, he may not have had the chance to rush for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Helu is finally close to full strength and poised to make some noise during training camp to remind people that he's capable of being a dynamic asset out of the backfield.
Mike Shanahan is no stranger to the running back by committee approach, and there's no guarantee that Morris will repeat his breakout rookie season with an equally impressive follow up.
Helu has great speed and versatility that will push the likes of Evan Royster out of the way, and outshine rookies Jawan Jamison and Chris Thompson.
Ryan Kerrigan, Outside Linebacker
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When it comes to linebackers, particularly for the Redskins, it boils down to Brian Orakpo and London Fletcher. With Fletcher expected to retire following the 2013 season and Orakpo amped up for a huge year, Ryan Kerrigan doesn't have much of a chance to stand out.
After making the Pro Bowl in 2012, suffering through a frustrating season of near-sacks, Kerrigan has set himself up to steal the show heading into the 2013 season.
Kerrigan's Pro Bowl season wasn't amazing by any stretch, notching just 8.5 sacks and an interception return for a touchdown, but he is a no-quit sort of player with a nose for the quarterback and the ball that could put him in the spotlight in spite of the bigger names around him in training camp.
Phillip Thomas, Safety
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It is expected that Bacarri Rambo will be the talk of the secondary throughout training camp by virtue of being the most capable free safety on the roster. However, Phillip Thomas seems to have been overlooked with Brandon Meriweather expected to be back and healthy at strong safety.
Rookie or not, Thomas has a ton of potential and could develop a substantial chip on his shoulder with so much focus on others in the secondary.
Thomas is a natural strong safety with great ball skills, which seems to have slipped some people's minds with Rambo stealing the show at free safety in offseason workouts. Not only did he force six fumbles at Fresno State, he also intercepted 13 passes, taking four back for touchdowns.
Expect Thomas to do everything in his power too supplant Meriweather as the penciled in starter.
Aldrick Robinson, Wide Receiver
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If not for a concussion suffered in a freak pregame collision with Brandon Meriweather, Aldrick Robinson's first full season with the Redskins might have been very different. Though he only caught 11 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns, he averaged an impressive 21.5 yards per reception.
Robinson didn't do much down the stretch last season, but could be a huge asset, especially as a deep threat.
It may be a stretch to base the potential for Robinson's breakout on one season, and a mere 11 catches, but he doesn't suffer from focus issues the way Leonard Hankerson has, and he stretches the field better than Josh Morgan.
With Santana Moss entering, if not firmly grounded in, the twilight of his career, Robinson may be in for a big role as a slot receiver.
Jarvis Jenkins, Defensive End
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With Adam Carriker set to start training camp on the PUP list following a setback in his recovery from injury in 2012, Jarvis Jenkins is likely to start at defensive end opposite Stephen Bowen. He showed a ton of promise as a rookie, and worked back from his knee injury last season.
Now, recovered, stronger and better than he's ever been, Jenkins is a big-time player in a wildly unappreciated position.
Defensive ends in the 3-4 defense don't get sacks, and are really just space eaters, hole closers and block occupiers. Jenkins did a good job with all of that in 2012, but wasn't quite as disruptive as he has the potential to be.
It might be tempting to overlook Jenkins because of the bigger names on the defense, but Jenkins will make an impact in training camp, even if only to prove he's not just taking over for the injured Carriker.
Richard Crawford, Cornerback
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Richard Crawford may have the inside edge when it comes to returning punts, but that is not the extent of his ambition. Though the Redskins added David Amerson and E.J. Biggers, and brought back Chase Minnifield, Crawford has a year under his belt and an insatiable need to improve and refine his game.
In order to improve, Crawford has spent much of this offseason in the film room and spending time with Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green.
If anything, Crawford's greatest asset is his youth and relative lack of bad play in his short career. Biggers played on a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that managed to be worse than Washington's last season, and Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall combined for a frustratingly inconsistent starting duo.
With many eyes focused on Amerson as the Redskins top pick in this year's draft, Crawford is a sleeper heading into training camp, and will turn heads before long.
Tom Compton, Offensive Tackle
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A darkhorse candidate if ever there was one, Tom Compton is a big tackle with enough skill to be considered capable of backing up left tackle Trent Williams. Though it may seem foolhardy to put the lone backup left tackle in harm's way, Compton could sneak into the starting lineup at right tackle.
The Redskins brought Tyler Polumbus back and signed Tony Pashos, Jeremy Trueblood and rookie Xavier Nixon, but none of them has the experience in the system or the coach's eye like Compton.
He was promoted to the active roster in December of 2012, which shows at least some confidence on the part of the coaches. Compton is still far from a finished product, but if he has put work in improving his strength and refining his technique, he could leapfrog everyone at right tackle rather than sit and stew behind Williams.